Tom Peterkin: Kennedy would have sparkled at Holyrood

One of the many tragedies of Charles Kennedy’s death was that his passing has robbed public life of someone who was still keen to contribute despite losing his seat in the general election, writes Tom Peterkin.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy. Picture: AP

As a passionate Europhile, he saw himself playing a prominent role campaigning for a Yes vote in the forth-coming European referendum.

Another option under discussion was Kennedy standing for the Scottish Parliament.

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According to the Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, this possibility had been put to him and he was considering it.

No doubt there would be some 
who would still be of the view that standing for Holyrood would be a bit of a come-down for a man who had once led the third largest political party in the UK to unprecedented levels of popularity.

But for those of us condemned to observing the goings-on at Holyrood, his presence at the foot of the Royal Mile would have been an enormous breath of fresh air.

That the former Lib Dem leader was actively considering a move to Holyrood suggests that (unlike other Scottish politicians) he did not believe moving from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament would be a retrograde step.

For the Scottish Parliament to flourish as a true and effective cradle of Scottish democracy, it needs the country’s most talented political practitioners.

Over the past few years, Holyrood has seen much talk of independence, but there has been precious little evidence of independent thought.

With a highly disciplined SNP bound together by its devotion to the independence cause, there is much toeing of the party line and not much in the way of checks and balances.

That discipline extends to the committee system, which had been designed to hold government to account.

It was a system designed by people who never thought that a party would achieve the sort of success at the polls accomplished by the SNP.

Now it seems barely adequate with the SNP’s strength in numbers ensuring that it has a majority on most committees and politicians peddle the party line to the exclusion of dissenting voices from elsewhere.

The Scottish Parliament is crying out for politicians like Kennedy, who are prepared to go out on a limb over matters of principle.

What’s more, he would have provided a bit of the wit and joie de vivre that often seem absent on the charisma-free zones of the Holyrood benches.